We have to support the arts economy in Memphis in a way that empowers artists to make money doing what they do and feel valued. –Lauren Kennedy
The UrbanArt Commission is celebrating 20 years of developing public art and urban design in Memphis with a fundraising event on January 21st at Medicine Factory. Guests will enjoy food from Bounty on Broad, Second Line, Aaron Winters, and Phillip Ashley Chocolates, as well as a specialty cocktail dreamed up by Evan Potts of Porcellino’s. Of course, art is at the center of it all. Five local makers– Brit McDaniel of Paper & Clay, Lauren Carlson of Question the Answer, Phillip Ashley Chocolates, Brittney Bullock of Don’t Blink, and Luis Toro of City & State– have created limited edition items inspired by public art projects around town. Get tickets here.
UAC executive director Lauren Kennedy talked to us about public art’s impact on communities, UAC’s vision for the next 20 years, and nerding out.
Tell me about your passion for art. Is there a moment you can pinpoint in which you were deeply impacted by art and it made you want to do this type of work?
I’ve been hooked on art for a long time now and started college my freshman year knowing that I wanted to study art history. I’m that kind of art nerd that will get so overwhelmed in a good museum that I cry a little bit. Pretty much every time I see a gigantic Rothko painting, I want to just curl up inside it.
We have to support the arts economy in Memphis in a way that empowers artists to make money doing what they do and feel valued.
I think that when the UrbanArt Commission was founded, the primary goal was to establish this relationship that we have maintained with the City of Memphis. Those early years were really about advocating that this is work that the city should invest in, leading to City Council passing the percent-for-art ordinance in 2002.
Now we’re also exploring working with more private partners and organizations across the city and ultimately growing the number of people bought in and investing in this space. We are starting to see how much more impactful we can be by thinking comprehensively and strategically about how to connect all of the conversations we are having with folks at the city, Livable Memphis, Memphis Medical District Collaborative, Downtown Memphis Commission and more. The work we are doing with Memphis 3.0 is such an exciting development for us because we aren’t just talking about producing projects, but actually injecting some creativity in how we approach strategic goals for our city.
Artists are creative problem solvers and I am really happy to see us inviting them to flex those muscles in a radically different way through this process. And to be inviting artists working in different media – visual, craft, design, music, performance – to work with us on this.